Rethinking Expertise II

25 Oct

Recenty, I discussed a new book, Rethinking Expertise. The author took the position that there is a danger in the idea that everyone can be an expert on anything–all that is needed is an internet connection.

What I found most troublesome was the idea that “vaccine scares” were used as a prime example of this false expertise. At the time, I assumed that the author likely meant the autism/vaccine link.

The author, Harry Collins of Cardiff University, was recently interviewed by Ira Flatow of Science Friday. You an listen to the interview on the Science Friday website (or download from there).

In the interview, he specifically mentions the Wakefield/MMR scare.

The autism community is being used as a big example of the dangers of false-expertise. Not a good sign.

4 Responses to “Rethinking Expertise II”

  1. Maddy October 26, 2008 at 01:11 #

    I caught a snippet of that on NPR too. However, he also had a whole slew of useful advice about how to determine the ‘authority’ of the person giving an opinion. That’s a bit that might well be worth promoting.
    Best wishes

  2. Ms. Clark October 26, 2008 at 03:27 #

    Thank you, Sullivan. I didn’t know about that Science Friday broadcast. It’s interesting that Ira Flatow used an antivax mom who called in while Dr. Offit was being interviewed on that same show as an example of someone who mistrusts experts, reflexively, and has put non-experts in the place of experts.

    I think I’ll get that book. I wonder if he discusses the problem of people with overinflated egos believing that, for instance a few hours on Google makes them the equivalent of a PhD in any topic.

  3. pj October 26, 2008 at 12:46 #

    Hah, that’s Harry Collins of ‘The Golem’ and science studies fame. As he admits in his interview he’s certainly contributed to mistrust of science.

    With his co-author he talks approvingly of chiropractic in Dr Golem.

    Skipping through that book I would suggest that he has made claims to expertise that are dubious, in particular he makes great claims like ‘medical science has little effect on average expectation of life’ (a widespread but demonstrably false myth based on a study of improvements in life expectancy at the turn of the 19th century!)

  4. Liz Ditz October 26, 2008 at 21:01 #

    Coturnix on information vs. knowledge vs. expertise

    which is a riff on Kevin Kelly’s The Expansion of Ignorance

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